Early last spring a little boy led his family out of their cocoon/cave/house on a walk up a forest-flanked road.
He was seven then. He’s seven now, but the creature that twirled and danced up a road glittering with magic spring sunlight hitting millions of melted droplets on leaves and twigs is no longer with us. That person found magic swords everywhere we looked. He found quests to complete and saved his mom and dad from their winter doldrums.
On the way back, the boy and his family noticed a mommy and a daddy turkey crossing the road (They knew it had to be a mommy and daddy because they all heard the mom ask the dad if the new spring feathers made her look fat). The boy and his family were so excited about seeing another family emerging from their cocoon – a sure sign that spring was on the way – that they missed a golden opportunity to ask them why poultry crosses the road.
Then the turkeys disappeared into the forest and the family continued on, not realizing that the turkeys, like fat but less enthusiastic about flying everywhere because it really is showing off crows, were omens. Or at least a signal that the family had reached the beginning of the end of the beginning or possibly the beginning of a new beginning. Either way, it was an auspicious occasion and the human family completely missed it.
That, not spring and not time, is when the boy – the little magic man – began to change.
A few weeks later as the family was coming home the turkey family – an actual family of a mom and dad and quite a few babies – crossed the road. After a sitting silently trying to think of a way to explain to the boy why human mommies couldn’t lay that many eggs at one time, the human mommy waited for turkeys to cross the road for that thing they just had to and for the boy to go back to torturing his older brother so she could keep on driving.
All summer the human family kept bumping into the turkey family. They met each other on the road and saw each other across the garden. Somehow they never got around to saying hello because the turkey family was
secretly carrying out a plot to evolve the seven year old boy.
Here’s the proof. Each time the human family saw the turkey family, the boy was forced to ask new questions, and with each question it would have been clear to the un-overscheduled observer that he was changing.
In May: “How do the turkeys potty train their kids?”
In June: “Where do they sleep at night?”
In July: “Why isn’t turkey season in November? (these are the hard questions a parent just can’t answer)
In August: “Why do the turkeys always have to cross road when I need to go to the bathroom?”
And finally in September: “Can I have some money?”
He was definitely changing, and the human mom blamed the turkeys. The boy was evolving so quickly she wasn’t even sure if he’d want a theme birthday party this year.
Then one day she looked up from her desk and out the window towards the garden. The turkey family was crossing the driveway, waving at or taunting the family dog who was skipping back and forth in front of the window as if she had to go to the bathroom, and the mom realized that the turkeys had changed even more than the boy had in the last few months.
They weren’t just a family. They looked like a flock. They were a flipping flock of turkeys heading for her garden.
Fortunately, the mommy turkey still had a better handle on her overgrown offspring than the human mom had on hers because they politely heeded her instructions to only eat the weeds and not ruin their dinner before they got into the main part of the forest.
The human mom watched the flock disappear, one turkey at a time, into the decorative weeds she called shrubs that grew at the edge of the woods. Then she noticed that the seven-year-old boy had sidled up next to her and wormed her arm around his shoulders in an appropriated hug.
“Wow,” he said. “They grow up so fast.”
The human mommy wasn’t sure if her eyes were suddenly moist from the smell of the boy’s socks or some other illness, but the little boy spoke quickly enough to forestall any deeper contemplation.
“Mommy,” he said using the term that every child uses when they’re looking for something. “Mommy, can I invite my friends on the bus to my birthday party too? I already said 9 of them could come with the kids in my class.”
But this isn’t just a story about turkeys or kids. It’s a story about the meaning of all life. Or at least a little part of it.
The upshot is that you shouldn’t get down wondering if your seven-year-old is getting too old for another theme birthday because that flock of turkeys is in the yard looking for the party and wondering if, even if it’s not the boy’s birthday, should we celebrate something anyway?
So there you have it. Life is like a flock of turkeys. You never know when they’re gonna cross your road and there’s nothing you can do about it except put it in neutral enjoy the chance for a breather.
They do grow up so fast, after all.